Friday, May 21, 2010

Acupuncture Decoding an Ancient Therapy (From The Wall Street Journal)

Alex's note:  This is a good overview article with video and interactive graphics.

Acupuncture has long baffled medical experts and no wonder: It holds that an invisible life force called qi (pronounced chee) travels up and down the body in 14 meridians. Illness and pain are due to blockages and imbalances in qi. Inserting thin needles into the body at precise points can unblock the meridians, practitioners believe, and treat everything from arthritis and asthma to anxiety, acne and infertility.

As fanciful as that seems, acupuncture does have real effects on the human body, which scientists are documenting using high-tech tools. Neuroimaging studies show that it seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sweat a "B" symptom

I sweat.  when I take NSAIDS.  I sweat when I take Oxycontin and Dialaudid.   I sweat a lot.   It never used to be this way.  All this started about 2 weeks before I was diagnosed.  Near daily I get a low-grade fever with severe chills.  I( assume they are good for me.  They are certianly not infectious.  They are one of my body's way of fighting the tremendous inflammation.   The chills are that kind when you have the flu and no matter what you do, you can't warm up until the NSAID kicks in.  That takes 45 minutes give or take.   It used to be that the cycling of chills and fever would take longer and the fever higher,  now I can generally defeat the chills in a 1/2 an hour with warm tea and Motrin.  I still wear the hoodie sweat shirt with the hood pulled down tight and a wool cap underneath when I get the chills.  
One of my regular times to take Motrin is around 2:45am.   This leads to sweating while sleeping.  Sweating in bed is a problem.  Imagine sleeping in wet tissue paper.  It feels something like that.  I cover my pillows with a bath towel and literally towel off in the middle of the night as needed.  In the beginning I used to change my shirt about 6 times per night but Now I am down to 2 or 3.  There is nothing worse than be awoken by sweat dripping in my eye in the middle of the night.  

Motrin (Ibuprofen) as an anti-inflammatory is good to take also for anti-cancer purposes.   When this medical odyessy is over, I would like to again sweat when I am exercising.

My New Bed

The other week an old friend of Denise's and a patient of mine came over to visit me.  She took one look at the bed I am sleeping on downstairs and wondered aloud how do I sleep in this bed.  I was defensive at first.  What was really wrong with my bed?  A lot.  When my son graduated from his crib to a bed we went to Ikea and bought him a bed.  He is now 13 1/2 so I figure the bed is over 10 years old.  The futon mattress after 10 years became "credit card" thin.  On top of that I became so used to the foot board that I  put a towel over the wood so I could rest my leg on it.  I am 6'6".  A standard twin is 6'3".  It is fabulously lush and firm at the same time.  I dreamed I was sleeping in a fancy hotel.
Because of the new bed I have nearly stopped watching TV because there is no TV in the room where the bed is. There is almost nothing to watch on TV anyway.  The couch in our living has been used for the past ten years as a trampoline and jungle gym by the kids and it is so worn out that it is like sitting in a bucket.   Next to go is the couch.

Thank you for the bed Michelle.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Uses For The Iphone When Taking Narcotics

There is a great Iphone application.  It is the flashlight. This is how to use it.  I open up the email module of the iphone so it will stay lit and not go into sleep mode and there you have it -  wa la - light. 
In the past week I have been in severe pain as the cumulative effects of radiation show themselves. This has led to the necessity of taking narcotic pain relievers in the middle of the night.  I have always tried to tough out the pain.   Due to bad experiences with taking Vikodin earlier in my medical odyessy, I was so extremely cautious about using my Vikodin or Dilaudid prescription that I undermedicated myself.  I took pride in the fact that for the past couple of months I was only using Motrin. 
I got such severe pain that my leg started to swell in ways that Motrin was simply not going to cut down, not even close.   "Excruciating" was the word I used to describe the pain. So I needed my cell phone to open those child proof bottles in the middle of the night.
I also discovered that in pain management there are short-acting and time-released narcotics.  After meeting with the Pain Management people a few times I was able to get the dose right so I could take less pain medication and get more pain relief using higher doses of long-acting Oxycontin and using Dilaudid for breakthrough pain.  These drugs are like a god-send. They have made me functional again. The only unwanted side-effect thus far is constipation.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Getting through without antidepressants

Yesterday I had a talk with a friend about anti-depressants.  Do I need them?  I don't know but I don't want to get involved in another pill taking regimen.  Cancer is stressful and I am depressed in some ways but that is the nature of things.  I am in a situation that is not happy, fun or pleasant.  Most of the time I am scared.  What if...  they find the tumor has spread, or the radiation permanently damages me, or the surgery leaves me marred etc.... By crying I release the stuck emotion and allows me to come back to the present so I don't have to dwell on the anxiety.  Sometimes,  I cry when I call out to god in desperation "please stop my leg from hurting",  But most of the time I cry when I am triggered by the slightest provocation.  For example I cried yesterday when I had to go to the chemotherapy infusion area to get  a blood transfusion because it reminded me of when I was chemotherapy and how horrible I felt. I will have to go back to chemotherapy again. 

I read books I cry.  These are all cathartic sobs to release the stuck emotions.  It works.  I feel better after I cry.  I don't have to medicate that.  This may be hard for other people to see a grown man cry but that is how it is.  I am unapolegetic for that.  Besides they are more short bursts than long drawn out sobs. 

Lance Armstrong refers a few times in his book to the blessing of cancer.  What he meant is that in the depths of suffering and pain  personal growth changes you.  My emotional life, my constructs of who I am and what I thought I was doing in this life have been shattered by my struggles.   My gratitude and empathy for others sufferings has gone through the roof and my desire for life is now something that I don't take for granted.

I am motivated by wanting to live my life differently when this is over.  A few of the things I want to do is have a big party when I am cancer free.  I will invite lots of people.  I want to go to Bali or an exotic location in Thailand and after watching so much pastoral golf on TV I want to learn to play golf. 

In the meantime my day-to-day is tough, full of uncertainty and stress and that is just the way it is.

Thank you all again for your love and support